Wine Importing and Marketing Services

The New York Craft Distillers Building the Empire Rye Movement

Whiskey being poured in glass sitting on top of a pile of grains / Photo by Tom Arena

About six years ago, a group of New York craft distillers began a project to draw attention to their state’s unique rye whiskey tradition. Today, the initial group of six has grown to around 20 producers who are committed to the Empire Rye designation.

New York Distilling Company, Kings County Distillery, Finger Lakes Distilling, Coppersea Distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits and Black Button Distilling set out to make a version of rye that would carry the Empire Rye name and seal of authenticity. The rule was simple—each distillery could produce its own version of Empire Rye that abided by four rules aligning with the state’s Farm Distillery License:

75% of the grain must be grown in New York State
Distilled to no more than 160 proof
Aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels at no more than 115 proof when aged
Must be mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and aged at a single New York State distillery